Chew for Bliss! Thoughts on Mindful Eating

You know the drill. You’re running like mad to and from work, to pick up and drop off kids, to soccer practice, to the dry cleaner, to the grocery store. Day in and day out. Life never seems to slow down for a minute, let alone give you a day off to catch up. Taking a break long enough for mindful eating at an actual meal seems like the last thing on the priority list.

The key to successfully keeping a healthy weight while still enjoying a feeling of satisfaction during meals may not take diet programs, measuring every ounce of food or living on plain salads. Research shows that mindful eating is the key, and it may be as simple as taking your time and chewing as thoroughly as possible. No extra thought or preparation required. During the last few weeks I have committed to putting everything I eat on a pretty plate, eating it as slowly as I can, and chewing each bite at least 30-50 times. What I’ve discovered during this process is really incredible.

utensils

The truth is, it’s hard to build a habit to eat more slowly. It’s hard to build any new habit after years of eating a certain way. I can’t even count how many nights I’ve spent bingeing myself into a stupor over the past 20 years. It is easy to get carried away with a busy schedule, grab food on the run, or sit in a daze in front of the television after a long day shoveling the snacks in for comfort. Pretty soon you’ve eaten a day’s worth of calories and didn’t even notice, let alone enjoy it! I’ve totally been there.

Eating slowly and chewing more takes a lot of work and practice. To be honest, my jaw gets a little tired, I’m initially pretty bored and restless, and sometimes I feel like a 90-year old woman when I sit and chew each bite so many times. But suddenly, in the middle of the meal, I’ll get this incredible sense of bliss and peace. It’s really astonishing. My whole body relaxes, and I realize that no matter what it is I am eating or what is going on in my head, the meal is perfect and nourishing and I am enjoying it to the fullest. I’m taking the time to give my body exactly what it needs and wants, and really living in the moment. Mindful eating works!

pastries

What you eat really isn’t the important thing. It’s how you eat it.

After this, contentment happens. I feel peaceful and relaxed and completely in tune with my body’s needs. I always leave the table feeling satisfied, without needing to stuff myself to dull my emotions or comfort eat into oblivion. A portion which used to take me perhaps 2 minutes to inhale has now taken 20 minutes. My mind is at ease and my stomach has had the time to process that it has been filled. It may take a while to build the habit, and it is usually far too easy to slip into old patterns. Nobody is perfect. Schedules will still be crazy, and it will be hard to justify taking the time for a 20 minute meal in the middle of chaos. I still binge occasionally, and I know that comfort eating will still lure me in when things get stressful. But this trick is totally worth it. Eat slowly, chew a bunch, and wait till the satisfaction sets in!

What are your tricks to eating mindfully and feeling satisfied?

Share in the comments, and don’t forget to subscribe if you want to see more!

Surviving the Holidays

The holidays are always a stressful and crazy time of year. Even under the best of circumstances, there are get-togethers to plan, meals to make, and gifts to wrestle out of someone else’s hands in the mile-long line at the mall on Black Friday (kidding! Play nice!). Worst case scenarios bring crazy relatives, stress eating and emotional breakdowns during what should be a time for fun and celebration with loved ones. Studies have shown that the incidence of deadly heart attacks spikes during the holidays, especially around Christmas and New Years Day. Surviving the holidays becomes a difficulty no matter what we do! So how do we manage to avoid, or at least minimize, the stress? How do we keep holidays fun and relaxed?

May your walls know joy, may every room hold laughter, and every window open to great possibility.

Mary Anne Radmacher

After my mother passed a few years ago, it was a huge challenge to keep the holidays alive. She was the glue that held our families together, and without her it felt like there wasn’t any meaning in any of it. Even a small family get-together felt strained and painful, a reminder of loss. The grief lingered, but I finally realized that forcing myself to engage in uncomfortable situations wasn’t the answer. I had to find my own meaning, make new traditions. So now, I do what feels comfortable. I’m gentle with myself. I’ve learned how to say no (although it’s still a struggle at times). And I’ve found a few things that really help when it comes to dealing with stress during this time of year that I hope you will find useful.

Holiday Puppy

Acknowledge Feelings.

This isn’t always easy, especially if relationships are strained or someone is going through grief. But simply letting others know how you feel can relieve stress. Don’t feel that you have to force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holidays.

Reach Out.

I learned this one the hard way. As an introvert who’d rather hide in my bathtub with a book than host a dinner party, it isn’t always easy for me to reach out, especially during the holidays. It’s even harder when I’m admitting I need help or I’m feeling isolated. By talking with a friend or seeking out a community support group, we can lift our spirits during this stressful time.

Winter leaves, Surviving the Holidays

Do Relaxation Exercises.

Finding a quiet place is often difficult during a bustling holiday season, but even just a few minutes of meditation or deep breathing can do wonders for surviving the holidays and calming a stressed-out mind and body.

Say No!

I don’t mean it’s necessary to avoid every uncomfortable situation at all costs, but learning to say no is crucial for keeping stress at bay. Saying yes when you’re already overwhelmed only creates resentment and frustration. If it’s not possible to say no, such as working overtime or an emergency situation, give yourself a break later on to make up for it.

Holiday cake, Surviving the Holidays

Keep it Healthy.

It’s easy to over-indulge this time of year given all the sweets and parties. Surviving the holidays is about keeping the food as simple (read: quick and easy) and healthy as possible. Despite their quick burst of energy, sweets make us feel worse over time, not to mention adding weight-gain into the line-up of potential stressors. Certainly don’t beat yourself up for indulging, but try to tune in to your body and ask what will make you feel best before diving mindlessly into the sweets. During the month of December, I’ll be sharing lots of healthy vegan versions of holiday recipes to help lighten the calorie load and give you ideas for holiday get-togethers!

Plan and Budget.

Nothing is worse during the holidays than having to scramble last minute for gifts and meals. So give yourself some extra time to plan ahead – you’ll keep things healthier that way too. As for gifts and parties, decide how much you can spend and then stick to it. Make homemade gifts, donate to charity, or start a new holiday tradition that doesn’t involve spending so much!

Give yourself a Break.

Be realistic about the holidays. They don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. After my mother’s death this was the hardest thing for me. I felt as if I had to swoop in and re-create exactly how it was when she orchestrated Christmas parties. Everything had to be perfect down to the carefully crafted hors-d’oeuvres and the mountains of gifts. I drove myself crazy trying to do all that, and it turned into a nightmare because I couldn’t replace what I really wanted – my mother. Once I learned that being realistic and giving myself a break from all that was the best thing, the holidays got a whole lot simpler and less stressful.

Winter Sunset

Forgive.

Whether you have a crazy relative who drinks too much and causes a ruckus, or some simmering disagreement with a family member, relationship stress can be difficult during a time of year when families come together. So remember to have some empathy. They’re probably just as stressed as you are! Be understanding and forgive each other. And don’t forget to forgive yourself.

 

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Raw Zucchini Hummus with Ginger and Lime

Raw hummus used to be much more of a staple food for me when I was dabbling in a high-raw diet. I would whip up a big batch and use it on everything – as salad dressing, as dip for crudité, inside lettuce wraps. I love how easy it is to make and how versatile. Even if you’re not trying to follow a raw diet, adding in raw foods is healthy and delicious! The base of this hummus is zucchini, meaning it’s lower in calories than traditional hummus (and often easier to digest than the chickpeas which form the base of cooked hummus). This recipe is modified from this recipe on Choosing Raw, one of my favorite raw food blogs. This time I decided to give it an Asian spin by featuring ginger. This recipe can be done with sesame seeds instead of tahini if using a high speed blender like the Vitamix (I love mine) but since I only had tahini I went with it instead. Using sesame seeds gives the hummus a fluffier and thicker texture.

As the featured vegetable of the day for my veggie recipe challenge, ginger is a powerhouse of nutrients. This spicy root is is still used in many traditional Indian and Chinese medicines to prevent disease and promote general good health. It contains many minerals necessary to the body and is very anti-inflammatory and good for digestion. It adds a very special flavor and interesting twist to this raw hummus.

Raw Zucchini Hummus

 

Raw Zucchini Hummus with

Ginger and Lime

  • 2 small zucchini
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 inch of ginger root, minced
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt, or to taste

Using a grater, shred the zucchini. Pat dry well using paper towels.

In a food processor or high speed blender, combine all ingredients, with the zucchini on the bottom, and blend until very smooth.

Zucchini Hummus with Ginger and Lime

Raw Zucchini Hummus with Ginger and Lime

Raw Vegan Zucchini Hummus with Ginger and Lime

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s recipe featuring a new veggie, and don’t forget to subscribe if you want to follow the whole 50-day “a different veggie a day” recipe challenge.

In case you missed the last 34 days of recipes, here they are:

Printable Version:

Raw Zucchini Hummus with Ginger and Lime
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 small zucchini
  • ¼ cup tahini
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 inch of ginger root, minced
  • ¼ tsp sea salt, or to taste
Instructions
  1. Using a grater, shred the zucchini. Pat dry well using paper towels.
  2. In a food processor or high speed blender, combine all ingredients, with the zucchini on the bottom, and blend until very smooth.

 

Guacamole-Stuffed Mini Sweet Peppers… And a veggie challenge!

I’m starting to feel my body coming alive.

It’s Groundhog day. The weather’s changing, the sun is (hopefully) showing up a bit more, even though it’s still winter.

Around this time of year I always want to do something to change up my routine. I used to detox, but these days I don’t find that’s very helpful for me – it gets me too obsessive about food. This year I want to do something really different. Maybe a bit crazy (but not restrictive).

So here we go… 50 days of veggies.

Conversation with Rick yesterday:

Me: I’m going to make a different veggie dish every single day for 50 days. On Wikipedia there is a whole list of veggies and it’s more than 50 so I can totally do it!

Rick: Really? Don’t you think that’s a pretty intense goal? What if you miss a day?

Me: Nope. I won’t miss a day. I’ll do it even if the pictures are terrible or the dish was so nasty even Princess won’t eat it or if I’m so tired all I make is celery with peanut butter on it.

Rick: Ok… Good luck! Let me know how I can help!

Then he kissed me.

I love that man.

So today is Day 1. And you all have to help keep me accountable. I’m serious – I don’t usually demand my readers do things but I need help with this! I’m notorious for slipping up and not finishing when I start a goal. So anything you’ve got – motivation, quotes, recipes, even a kick in the pants – bring it!

Ok, let’s get to the food.

Guacamole-Stuffed Mini Peppers Ingredients

Guacamole-Stuffed

Mini Sweet Peppers

  • 12 mini sweet peppers in assorted colors
  • 2 avocados, peeled and pitted
  • 1/4 cup red onion, minced
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped, plus extra for garnish

Place avocado in a bowl. Mash with a fork until desired guacamole consistency is reached (I like mine a bit chunky). Add in red onion, lime juice, sea salt and cilantro, mixing well.

Lying the peppers down, carefully chop a strip lengthwise off the “top” to make boat shapes. Fill each pepper with 2 heaping tablespoons of guacamole, garnishing with additional cilantro.

Mini Peppers Stuffed with Guacamole

 

Guacamole-Stuffed Mini Peppers

This is obviously not a very “wintery” vegetable dish, but I really wanted guacamole and it just came together in my mind so I went with it. Going forward I will be doing more hearty stuff using in-season vegetables. I want this to be about healthy, whole food, in-season produce as much as possible apart from if I’m having a specific craving! Lol…

Raw Vegan Guacamole-Stuffed Mini Peppers

Any ideas on recipes or requests? I’m going to need a lot of inspiration so please let me know if you have any thoughts on recipes or interesting veggies to use. And don’t forget to subscribe if you want to follow my veggie challenge!

 

Candida and a vegan diet

Most women know what it feels like to have Candida, or yeast, overgrowth.  The itching, burning, and discomfort that comes along with a yeast infection are hard to miss.  Having experienced quite a few of these myself over the years, I finally decided I needed to take a good long look at the foods I’m eating.  Following a vegan diet usually steers a person in the right direction when it comes to healthy food choices, but without some conscious effort it’s easy to fall into the “vegan junk food” pattern.  Think vegan ice cream, baked goods, white bread, too much processed fake meat products.  I’ve even been known to take a spoon to the peanut butter jar (hey, it has protein, right??).

These foods can have a place in a healthy vegan diet, but frequent overindulgence here can spell trouble for your health.  Obviously weight gain, blood sugar spikes and even cholesterol issues are problematic, but what I want to focus on right now is Candida, or yeast overgrowth.  Often it can have no symptoms other than lethargy and a generally unhealthy feeling, but when the natural balance of yeast in your gut becomes out of whack it can cause havoc.  For women, vaginal yeast infections, especially recurring ones, are an indication that Candida could be  overgrown throughout the digestive system.  The most common problems are skin, mouth, or vaginal infections.  It can be more difficult to identify in men but itchy rashes can occur.

I’ve found that a vegan diet can sometimes be problematic when dealing with ongoing Candidiasis.  Since vegans don’t eat meat or meat byproducts like eggs or dairy, we often supplement our diet with a lot of carbohydrates.  Glutinous starches turn into sugar in our digestive system, which feeds the yeast, exacerbating the issue.

So when I once again found myself with one of those lovely little infections I decided I’d had enough.  But what can be done?  I’m not interested in going back to eating animal products.  A little research online helped me determine some changes to make – hopefully these strategies can help anyone else who’s in my same boat.

Non-Glutinous Grains

Grains are a wonderful and healthy part of a vegan diet.  But glutinous grains turn very easily to sugar, which feeds yeast.  Solution?  Non-glutinous grains.  These should be a very important part of a vegan diet, not only because they are incredibly nutritious, filling, and unprocessed, but because they help control Candida.  You may be able to tolerate processed versions of these as well (quinoa pasta, buckwheat flour, etc.).

List of acceptable non-glutinous grains:

Quinoa

Millet

Buckwheat

Oat Bran

Nuts And Seeds

While nuts and seeds provide loads of important nutrients, fat and protein for vegans, they often contain mold.  Peanuts in particular contain high levels of mold.  Yeast is essentially a type of mold, so avoiding high-mold content foods is important to get Candida under control.  The following nuts and seeds typically have a low mold content so they are good options.  Coconut and almond flour are also excellent choices for baking.

Almonds

Coconut meat

Flaxseed

Hazelnuts

Pecans

Sunflower seeds

Walnuts

Oils

Cold pressed and organic are always the best way to go with oils, and this is no exception.  Special shout out to coconut oil which has naturally anti-bacterial, anti-yeast and anti-fungal properties.  Ladies out there – go here to see another amazing and effective way to use coconut oil to combat yeast infections.  It really works!

Coconut oil

Red palm oil

Olive oil

Sesame oil

Flax oil

Seasonings and Spices

Many herbs and spices have antioxidant and antifungal properties, and they can also improve circulation and reduce inflammation. Special shout out in this category goes to garlic, which again is incredibly anti-bacterial and anti-fungal.  My own motto is to eat garlic as often as possible!  Coconut Aminos is an excellent alternative to soy sauce, and apple cider vinegar is great for making up your own salad dressings.

Basil

Black Pepper

Cinnamon

Cloves

Dill

Garlic

Ginger

Oregano

Paprika

Rosemary

Thyme

Lemon juice

Coconut Aminos

Raw, Organic, Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar

Beverages

Many herbal teas have anti-fungal properties.  Here are just a few.  Chicory root is a natural pre-biotic (it feeds the good bacteria which helps balance yeast).

Peppermint tea

Cinnamon tea

Chicory root coffee

Ginger tea

Licorice root tea

Sweeteners

These sweetening agents do not feed yeast and have a very small effect on blood sugar.

Stevia

Xylitol

Vegetables

Who could forget our veggies?!  Non-starchy veggies should be a staple in everyone’s diet!  Starchy veggies are delicious and nutritious, but the higher sugar content feeds yeast, so while fighting a Candida overgrowth avoid beets, sweet potatoes, yams, corn, winter squash, peas, parsnips, and beans.  I know, you’re probably screaming about hearing that beans are off limits.  I sure did.  But they contain a lot of starch which, again, feeds the yeast.  So keep calm and fill up your plate with some of the following (incomplete list of non-starchy veggies):

Asparagus

Artichokes

Avocado (yay!)

Broccoli

Brussel Sprouts

Cabbage

Celery

Cucumber

Eggplant

Garlic (especially raw)

Kale

Olives (as long as they are not pickled in vinegar)

Onions

Rutabaga

Spinach

Tomatoes

Zucchini

Some Additional Notes

As always, be sure to consult your primary care provider before going on any sort of restrictive diet.  These guidelines not meant to be a long-term diet, although it can be a good framework for a healthy vegan diet if used carefully.  Avoiding excess sugar and processed carbohydrates is the first best step.  For vegans who don’t eat yogurt, a good probiotic supplement is also very helpful in controlling Candida.  For more information, visit http://www.thecandidadiet.com/.  This list of foods is modified from their guidelines, and there are a lot more helpful tips and recipes.

Ever had symptoms of excess Candida?  What are the ways you re-balance your body?  Share in the comments!